Morningside and Mantis Graphix – A Partnership of Possibilities

Anthony Fregozo, 23, has been employed at Mantis Graphix in Tumwater since August 2014. Morningside provides job coaching to help Anthony perform his duties.


By Nikki McCoy

Anthony Fregozo, 23, has been employed at Mantis Graphix in Tumwater since August 2014. Morningside provides job coaching to help Anthony perform his duties.

Three days a week, Anthony Fregozo, 23, goes through his janitorial checklist: vacuuming, mopping, and making sure the bathroom mirrors are clean and streak-free. Anthony has Lowe Syndrome, and he also has a job he loves.

For nearly a year now, Anthony has been employed as a janitor at Mantis Graphix, a local silk-screening, printing and embroidery shop. It’s been a long road, but with the help of Mantis owner Carrie Boyd and his Morningside job coach Jean O’Keeffe, Anthony has become a valuable employee, with an increasing sense of purpose.

“He’s incredibly engaging, everybody loves him,” says Jean. “He’s incredibly reliable. He shows up bright eyed and bushy tailed. He’s easy to work with and a delight.”

Jean has worked with Anthony since the beginning, training and coaching Anthony towards independence. She explains while Anthony is fine with his mobility, he has very poor vision, so it was important to teach him how to clean small spots on mirrors, or get the full carpet when vacuuming.

“At first he didn’t know how to vacuum. We modeled it, and then we let him try. I ended up putting orange markers out because he could see them and we practiced over and over. Now he vacuums independently,” she says.

Morningside job coaches work closely with both their client, and the partner business. Job assessments, paired with personality and abilities are all considered. Eventually, the goal is for the employees to work independently, but often, employees will still need coaches.

“We were told Anthony would need a job coach the whole time, but he’s progressed in such an incredible way that he only needs someone the last half hour,” says Carrie. “He brings joy, fun and good-heartedness to the environment – we love having him around and he’s a hard worker too.”

Work ethic and staying on task is important to Anthony – even when the shop is busy with customers. “I don’t say ‘hi’ all the time. I like to focus on my work,” says Anthony.

When Carrie was first introduced to the Morningside program, which pairs people with disabilities to an appropriate job environment, she was looking to grow her small business, which was in the transition from home-based to storefront. “We were looking at how we could meet our needs within our shop,” explains Carrie. “After (manager) Teri and I having to be the janitors, and trying to fit that into our schedules – we thought, what about Morningside?”

Faith Freeman, 30, is another employee at Mantis Graphix. Morningside job coach Rachel Jensen helps Faith with the job’s daily checklist.

Mantis Graphix continues to grow, with a staff of seven, including their most recent hire, Faith Freeman, another Morningside connection. Working in the shop since March, Faith, who is 30, and has Down’s syndrome, works with the embroidery part of the operation, removing and reattaching tags, folding towels and more. “Faith is a very good worker,” praises Carrie. “She comes in, sets a timer, and does her work – she’s very meticulous, and a very nice young woman.”

Both Faith and Anthony work three days a week, and, like any job, the co-workers have become like family. When interviewing potential employees, Carrie was very thoughtful in creating the right environment for her staff and customers.

She felt Anthony was a perfect fit, and after interviewing Faith, (whose parents also attended) Carrie learned she had actually known her since birth, through a mutual friend. Carrie remembers bringing Faith a Statue of Liberty poster after vacationing decades ago. “Her dad was amazed I remembered,” laughs Carrie.

Now, the crew has monthly pizza parties, which Faith and Anthony love. Both of them have birthdays this month, which means another party and another favorite – cake. And with the addition of Teri’s new dog, Mokey, a friendly Shih Tzu, the shop feels complete, and Carrie feels like she’s doing her part to build community.

“I have lived in Tumwater my whole life. I raised my kids here,” she says, “And it’s important to me to give back to my community. It’s been very heartwarming for me, for Teri, for us all; it’s just been a fun adventure.”

To learn more about Morningside, visit their website or call 360-943-0512.

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